Ball don’t lie.
That’s what happened Saturday night back at Gan Ner, yes that Gan Ner where the lights went out as Hapoel Gilboa Galil convincingly downed Hapoel Holon in the replay of their semifinals game two clash. Avishay Gordon’s team advanced to the finals winning the series 2-0 and now will ready for a best of 3 against the defending champs Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After all that happened between Wednesday night at about 22:50 up until Saturday night at roughly the same time, Kerry Blackshear perhaps summed it up as well as anyone could, “Crazy week, I’m proud of my team and we aren’t done, two games to go.”
A crazy week, may have even been a bit of an understatement after the power outage, Holon’s refusal to play the final 6:58 of the 4th quarter when the lights came back on to the technical defeat levied by the Israel Basketball Association Court to the reversal of the ruling by the appeals court to the change of location of the replay from Gan Ner to Haifa and then back to Gan Ner roughly 24 hours before tipoff.
Crazy? Only in Israel.
Holon took a 3-point lead into the second half but Gilboa blew the game open in the fourth quarter to cruise to the win over Stefanos Dedas’s undermanned squad.
All the proof was in the pudding as Gilboa didn’t need the technical loss handed down to Holon, they proved that they were the better team in the gym.
“You always want to finish on the court. They are a really good team and we struggled with them but hats off to my team,” Blackshear commented. “We came out with energy and won with defense, we locked in and communicated.”
Gilboa coach Avishay Gordon who was ready last week to start preparing for a finals series with Maccabi also knew that winning on the parquet over Holon was the way to go.
“It was great to come back and finish this off on the court. I am so proud of the entire Gilboa Galil family. It was natural that we were going to be a little pressured at the start of the game but once we went back to playing our basketball, playing defense we were fine.”
One of the key players for Gilboa was Netanel Artzi who is just a bulldog on both ends of the court. Artzi plays with drive, hustle and a ton of heart. “We may have been a bit over excited at the start of the game and we knew what Holon could bring. In the second half we played our brand of basketball and did what we needed to do.”
While Gilboa won the series over Holon, Dedas’s team has no reason to hang their heads. They did the best they could with the cards that they were dealt with, “We knew that we were short and tactically we couldn’t match them. It was very difficult to play without out full team. We were missing four players and you cannot survive very easy. We tried but unfortunately we were very far away as to how we played a month ago.”
“We had great season and we were able to go deep in the Champions League and the State Cup along with playing in the Winner Cup final and we also won the Balkan League,” Holon captain Guy Pnini reflected.
“We were the second best team in Israel starting with the domestic league. We are very proud. For sure we could have done more. Injuries and rocket problems. We believed we could do something,” Dedas concluded.
But now it’s on to Gilboa and Maccabi for the league championship and the Galilee club will be plenty for the Yellow & Blue after winning two out of the three meetings between the teams.
“We want it and they are a really good team. But we are a very good team also,” Blackshear stated.
There’s no question that Maccabi will be the favorites no matter what the season record between the clubs was. Maccabi is the team who plays in the Euroleague, Maccabi is the current State Cup winner, Maccabi has arguably the best player in the league in Scottie Wilbkein and Maccabi will be playing with star talent and five foreigners.
“Maccabi is Maccabi,” Artzi began. “They are a big team who we are going to prepare for with all of our might. I don’t think that we are not as good as they are and I know that this will be a tough war. We will come in as best as we can for this game and this is my first finals that I know that I was a key contributor to.”
Jehyve Floyd understands what Gilboa will need to do in order to win the title, “We have a special group and we are going up against a great team in Maccabi so we’ll have to bring the best version of ourselves to win the championship.”